Buffy-tufted-ear marmoset (Callithrix aurita)

Also known as: buffy-eared marmoset
French: Marmouset À Oreilles Blanches, Oustiti À Oreilles Blanches, Oustiti Oreillard
GenusCallithrix (1)
SizeHead-body length: 19 – 24.8 cm (2)
Tail length: 27 to 35 cm (2)

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1) and listed on Appendix I on CITES (3).

The buffy-tufted-ear marmoset belongs to a family of tiny New World monkeys, the Callitrichidae, which comprises the marmosets and tamarins (4). Like other marmosets, the buffy-tufted-ear marmoset has striking ear tufts which, as its common name suggests, are coloured pale buff or whitish. The sides of the head are densely furred and black, while, in contrast, the crown is creamy white. The rest of the body is dark blackish brown, with the exception of the tail, which is grizzled yellowish-grey and marked with distinct black bands. Unlike some of the larger New World monkeys, the tails of marmosets and tamarins are not prehensile, but are extremely long and used for balance. The buffy-tufted-ear marmoset’s vocalisations comprise a variety of high-pitched whistles, chirps and twitters (2).

Endemic to Brazil, the buffy-tufted-ear marmoset is found in the southern part of the state of Minas Gerais, throughout Rio de Janeiro, and in the east and north-east of São Paulo (1).

The buffy-tufted-ear marmoset inhabits the Atlantic Forest region, generally occurring in montane rainforests, as well as disturbed secondary forest, up to elevations of 1,200 metres, where temperatures may fall below freezing during the dry season (April to September) (5) (6).

Active during the day, the buffy-tufted-ear marmoset can be found in small groups foraging in the tree canopy (2). Like other marmosets, a large portion of this species’ diet consists of gums and saps, obtained either by licking holes made by wood boring insects, or by gouging tree trunks, branches and vines of certain plant species with the specialised, small, tusk-like canine teeth of the lower jaw (2) (5). This latter form of gum extraction is quite destructive, often leaving trees riddled with hundreds of small slits and holes (2). While gum is consumed throughout the year, this species will preferentially take fruits during the wet season, and, unusually for a marmoset, will also feed on certain species of fungi found on bamboo (1) (5). Insects are another major source of food for this species, and may include grasshoppers (5), as well as swarms of army ants (7).

Buffy-tufted-ear marmoset groups may comprise either a single breeding pair, along with their offspring and sometimes members of extended family (1) (8), or a single male with multiple female breeding partners and their offspring (5) (9). Home ranges are relatively large, with a significant portion actively defended as the group’s territory (5). Marmosets generally give birth to non-identical twins, which are cooperatively reared within the group, with both parents and other family members sharing the duty of carrying the vulnerable infants (2) (8).

The major threat to the buffy-tufted-ear marmoset is the widespread destruction of its Atlantic Forest habitat. The effects have been particularly severe in lowland areas, apparently leading to the extinction of this species from lowland forest in the state of São Paulo. Additional threats to the buffy-tufted-ear marmoset include hunting for trade, as well as competition and interbreeding with introduced marmoset species. With a declining, highly fragmented population, this species faces an uncertain future (1).

The buffy-tufted-ear marmoset is currently listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which prohibits all international trade in this species (3). In addition, the buffy-tufted-ear marmoset is found in a few protected areas throughout its range (1). Despite the drastic levels of destruction and fragmentation of the Atlantic Forest, the region is now receiving extensive conservation attention, which hopefully will help to ensure the survival of the buffy-tufted-ear marmoset (10) (11) (12).

To learn more about conservation measures being employed in the buffy-tufted-ear marmoset’s habitat, visit:


Authenticated (16/04/2009) by Matthew Richardson, primatologist and author

  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2009)
  2. Emmons, L.H. and Feer, F. (1997) Neotropical Rainforest Mammals. University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
  3. CITES (March, 2009)
  4. Nowak, R.M. (1999) Walker's Mammals of the World: Volume 2. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.
  5. Ferrari, S.F., Corrêa, H.K.M. and and Coutinho, P.E.G. (1996) Ecology of the “southern” marmosets (Callithrix aurita and Callithrix flaviceps). In: Norconk, M.A., Rosenberger, A.L., and Garber, P.A. (Eds.) Adaptive Radiations of Neotropical Primates. Plenum Press, New York.
  6. Corrêa, H.K.M., Coutinho, P.E.G. and Ferrari, S.F. (2000) Between-year differences in the feeding ecology of highland marmosets (Callithrix aurita and Callithrix aviceps) in southeastern Brazil. Journal of the Zoological Society of London, 252: 421 - 427.
  7. Martins, M.M. (2000) Foraging over army ants by Callithrix aurita (Primates: Callitrichidae): Seasonal occurence?. Revista de Biología Tropical, 48: 1 - .
  8. Santos, C.V. and Martins, M.M. (2000) Parental care in the buffy-tufted-ear marmoset (Callithrix aurita) in wild and captive groups. Revista Brasileira de Biologia, 60: 667 - 672.
  9. Coutinho, P.E.G. and Corrêa, H.K.M. (1995) Polygyny in a free ranging group of buffy-tufted-ear-marmosets (Callithrix aurita). Folia Primatologica, 65: 25 - 29.
  10. Conservation International – Biodiversity Hotspots (March, 2009)
  11. WWF (March, 2009)
  12. The Nature Conservancy (March, 2009)